Special prosecutor to take over cases involving alleged misconduct by ex-Chicago detective

Cook County’s top criminal judge had recused herself and her peers from the cases, in which a retired detective — who’s married to a judge — is accused of framing defendants.

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Retired Chicago Police detective Kriston Kato testifies at the trial of Jason Van Dyke in 2018.

Retired Chicago Police detective Kriston Kato testifies at the trial of Jason Van Dyke in 2018. A special prosecutor will takeover post-conviction cases in which defendants allege Kato framed them. A Will County judge will hear eight cases, after the head criminal judge in Cook County asked to recuse herself and her peers from the case, because Kato is married to a judge.

Nancy Stone, Chicago Tribune pool

A special prosecutor will handle eight cases where defendants allege they were framed by a Chicago police detective who is married to a Cook County criminal court judge.

In the latest oddball twist in what for each defendant is a decades-long saga, Will County Judge David Carlson on Thursday begrudgingly ruled in favor of a motion by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to recuse her office from handling the cases. 

The eight cases, some dating to the 1980s, landed in Carlson’s courtroom in downtown Joliet after Judge Erica Reddick, chief judge of the criminal division, asked that she and all other Cook County judges be recused from the cases involving Kriston Kato. Kato, a now-retired CPD detective, has been accused of fabricating evidence and intimidating witnesses and is married to criminal Judge Mary Brosnahan. 

In turn, Foxx asked that a special prosecutor take over the cases to prevent any appearance that Kato’s relationship to criminal court judges was influencing the handling of the case. Carlson was clearly bemused during 45 minutes of back and forth with the multiple attorneys in the case, and offered up that he, too, was likely to “farm out” some of the eight cases to other Will County judges.

“I don’t know who, if anybody, is going to want to pick up a bunch of old post-conviction cases,” Carlson quipped. 

State law now requires Carlson to ask State Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office to serve as special prosecutor, and if Raoul declines, Carlson will make the same request of each elected State’s Attorney in the state. Carlson set the next hearing for the cases for October 25.

None of the attorneys representing the defendants — one defendant is representing himself from Pinkneyville prison and was not present for the hearing — objected to Foxx’s request to hand off the case. Despite qualms about elected prosecutors apparent broad latitude to step away from cases, Carlson noted that state law allows a state’s attorney to request a judge appoint a special prosecutor when there is a conflict for the office or “other reasons.”

Assistant State’s Attorney Carole Rogala said that Foxx wanted a special prosecutor to take over the cases, simply to avoid “the appearance of impropriety.”

“There has been, unfortunately, a lot of media attention to Cook County prosecutions and how cases are handled in Cook County,” Rogala said.

Camille Calabrese, the attorney representing Elijah Threatt and Jeremiah Wright, who allege they were beaten by Kato and his partner and forced to confess to a 1999 murder, offered up that she thought the case might get a fairer review if her clients were no longer mired in the “deep and dense pattern of relationships” between Cook County judges and prosecutors.

Attorney Karl Leonard, whose client, Kevin Murray, had been set for a crucial evidentiary hearing in front of Reddick that might have won him a new trial for a 1988 murder, said he was mainly concerned about the delay the special prosecutor process would add.

“I don’t care who the judge is or who the prosecutor is, the problem is we’re still stuck in prison,” Leonard said after the hearing. “My client deserves his day in court.”

Kato retired from CPD in 2006, and later worked for the Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents the bulk of Chicago’s rank-and-file officers. As a union rep in 2014, Kato responded to the scene the night former CPD officer Jason Van Dyke shot Laquan McDonald.

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